About me and this website

Hello, my name is Emre. I'm a 3rd year graduate student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. This website is mostly dedicated to the subject component of the general exam. I built most of this website while I was studying for the exam. I am trying to expand the content to include as many questions as possible. You should also check Alta's generals binder for questions from previous years.

During my preparation for the subject component of the exam, I have had the opportunity to interact with most of the faculty in my fields. In materials science I got interviewed by Barrie Royce before my first exam. During my preparations for the second time I had interviews with Dan Steingart and Andrej Kosjmrl. Both of these were very extensive (more than 2 hours each) interviews. My examiner was Craig Arnold. Also my advisor by that time, Wole Soboyejo, helped me to get prepared. In fluid mechanics I had interviews with Clancy Rowley, Howard Stone, Markus Hultmark, Michael Mueller, and Lex Smits. My examiner in this area was Dan Nosenchuck.

Questions in this website include my interactions with the faculty and friends. In addition to questions raised during my official and unofficial interviews I also put some canonical questions in both fields. I didn't have an organized source while I was studying for this exam, therefore I thought this site would help you in preparing.

Questions here span the following classes:

Materials Science:

MSE 501: Introduction to Materials Science

MSE 502: Phase Transformation in Metals and Alloys

MSE 505: Characterization of Materials

MAE 562: Fracture Mechanics

Fluid Mechanics:

MSE 551: Fluid Mechanics

MSE 552: Viscous Flow and Boundary Layers

I took the questions and answers from many different sources (experience, friends' experience, previous generals questions, lecture notes, books). Therefore I do not own anything on this website. If you see something that belongs to you and you do not want it to be on this side, please let me know, I will remove it.

Some notes on the whole process: Assuming that you're already a very hardworking student, generals are usually going very smoothly and it is very likely that you will pass. Pass / fail ratio varies from year to year. In our year we had 5 students out of 16 who need to retake the exam including one that had to postpone it to May due to poor interview performance. According to my experience and what I observed so far, these are situations that you need to stay away from (if you can):

  1. Being an AI: This is bad. Stay away from this. Especially if the class you're teaching has nothing to do with the fundamentals of your field, try to avoid being an AI. Try talking to your advisor and DGS about this and look for a way out. Being an AI creates a time vacuum which is the last thing you need while studying for generals and probably taking one class.
  2. Doing research too much: Spending 2-3 months without research will not be detrimental to your Ph.D. If you can, try to stop doing research by fall break, and focus only on generals starting from / including fall break. Some advisors may assume that you will continue doing research. If you don't speak up, you may never get the time you need. Ask them what their expectations are from you, and try to set a final date that you will stop doing research.
  3. Inefficient study group meetings: Generals is all about standing in front of the board and having a teaching approach to answer the questions you're asked. You should be able to draw pictures, write down the equations required, have a fluent and coherent structure of thought. Imagine you're a professor and you're teaching your examiners how stuff works. Therefore in you study groups, try to answer questions completely, if possible in front of a board. Do not assume that you know the answer of the question if you know how to tackle it. Give completed answers to the questions you ask each other.
  4. Taking math generals: By the time you read this website you probably already know whether you will have to take math generals. If it is still uncertain, give everything you got not to take B- from math. People who need to take the math generals struggle way more than others who don't have to. We had 4 people taking the math general exam, 3 of them failed either math or the subject component of their exams.
  5. Changing fields: If you had to change fields after taking introductory courses in the fall semester and start an unfamiliar field, start studying very early. The material takes time to sink in. It is very important that you get very comfortable and familiar with the material to be successful in the general exam. So be extra careful if you changed fields.
  6. Taking the exam in more than one field: That's something that is mostly out of your control, but if you have two examiners from two different fields, they assume that you mostly know everything on both fields. Taking generals in one field is much more easier, and the material that you need to cover is way less than taking generals in two or more fields.

In addition to these, you may have to tailor your studies according to who your examiner is after you finish studying the fundamentals of your field. Examiners have different expertise and they will ask you questions mostly related to the classes they teach. So this may be a point to consider for you while you're filling the examiner request form. Also talk to senior students about their experience with the examiner you want.

If you failed the general exam, click here